remolano’s review published on Letterboxd:
Rian Johnson does what no director would even think of doing.
The Last Jedi, while directly following up The Force Awakens is a film that completely opposes it. Episode VII wants to do nothing but bring back the past and Episode VIII suggests to kill it. Contrary to Abrams’ nostalgic vision, Johnson challenges the audience and blurs everything we thought we knew about Star Wars. It sounds like career-suicide to handle such an established franchise with the same confidence and boldness the way Johnson does here, but he does and it works anyway.
Following a similar tone and structure to The Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi is the breath of fresh air this trilogy needed. The film decides to blur the lines of good and evil itself, a construct the whole franchise is founded on between the Light and the Dark.
“Good guys, bad guys... made-up words.”
”... It’s all a machine partner. Live free. Don’t join.”
It feels like every character is eventually seen as both a good and a bad guy throughout the film, and I like how The Last Jedi does this. Luke explains the Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi Order, and it instead works as a balance between everything.
CJ is portrayed as an unlikely but needed ally, and he sells us on his good intentions after giving Rose’s necklace back, until he betrays Rose and Finn. Admiral Holdo is easily seen as a clueless leader whose actions would only lead to the demise of the Resistance, until her plan is revealed right before her heroic Holdo-maneuver. This subversion works in letting go of the black and white perspective between good and evil Star Wars usually has in its characters, plot, and iconography.
Not only is The Last Jedi the most challenging film but it’s by far the most visually stunning film in the franchise. I think there’s no denying that whether you like the film or not it has some of the best cinematography in all of Star Wars.
One thing I think less people can agree on is the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. How boring would it have been if their explanation for Luke’s exile was not anymore interesting than him being on a summer vacation? This version of Luke just works, and it makes the character more interesting than he ever was before. It makes for a great redemption arc that balances themes of failure and optimism, and he definitely got the best sendoff between him, Han, and Leia.
Even the rest of the ensemble is (mostly) written well. Rey, Kylo, and Poe feel twice as deep as they were in the last film. However, I think Finn was heavily downplayed and he should’ve been killed in his sacrifice at the end. The addition of Rose, while not as bad as Jar-Jar, is an awkward addition that doesn’t make sense as a foil to Finn at all. The better addition here however is Andy Serkis’ underrated performance as Snoke. I’m glad he got more screentime here, and though I would’ve liked his character to live on I’m not upset with their decision to kill him off either.
This was almost a ten, and then Rose kissed Finn for reasons that come out of nowhere and they had to CGI-out a knife to save Rey after she kicked three guys at once.
Save what you love my ass. 9/10.